"Every woman needs a Christmas 'I Don't' list. So this year, I'm sharing mine."

I Don’t… finish my Christmas shopping by December 1. 

I Don’t… buy different wrapping paper for “Santa presents”.

I Don’t… cook complicated Christmas lunch.

I Don’t… also do all the washing up.

I Don’t… invite everyone over for Christmas Eve drinks.

I Don’t… buy thoughtful, sustainable presents for every educator and instructor who comes into contact with my kids.

I Don’t… do a “drive-around” of the neighbourhood Christmas lights.

I Don’t… abstain from festive cheer all of Christmas Day to let my partner enjoy “a few cold ones”.

I Don’t… have a “Christmas Day Outfit”.

Welcome to the Christmas I Don’t List. One that could be scrolling from here to January 1. Seriously, it just keeps going. And going. And going.

Every time I type another word, I think of another festive failing and have to go back and add to it.

Hold on.

I Don’t… buy presents for all of my partner’s family members because he’s too busy/lazy to do it.

In 2019, the I Don’t list has come to define not only my parent life, but my life-life.

If you haven’t read it, it’s here. It’s a story about opting out of the bullshit idea of doing it all. 


It’s about the radical act of letting go of the idea that you can achieve absolutely anything if you want it hard enough. It’s about dispelling the myth that it’s possible to have a spotless house, quality time with the kids and a kick-arse career without losing your damn mind.

Plenty of us have tried and many of us have lost our damn minds, so let’s stop pretending.

Mamamia Out Loud host Holly Wainwright discusses why parental equality isn’t just a woman’s issue. Post continues after video.

I Don’t… know if it’s Mufti day on Wednesday, the last day of term. Do you?

The I Don’t list is about not endlessly adding to our To Do lists and instead, being honest about the things we Don’t do. Because, it turns out, all women secretly think that everyone else is Doing Everything, and that we are the only ones who do not have our shit together.

I Don’t… have plans for Boxing Day.

And at Christmas, we have never needed the I Don’t List more.


Because Christmas – and I use the word loosely, because whatever your ethnicity and religion there’s a certain amount of work that comes with the end of the year and Summer holidays – is full of joy and laughter and light and celebration. Something we need as much of as possible right now, when the news is bad and the world is scary.

And yet, Christmas is also Woman Prison.

holly wainwright
"Christmas is also Woman Prison," writes Holly Wainwright. Image: Supplied.

It’s not news that most of the holiday organising falls to women. The list-making and the gift-buying and the tense family negotiations about whose turn it is to host and who has to travel and who’s invited and who would just like “do their own thing” this year.

Then there’s who’s vegan now and what we can’t mention in front of Aunt Simone and how many dogs can attend without a melee and how much are we spending and are we doing Secret Santa and if we are who actually is drawing up the list and doing the draw and no, you can’t get her that, she only wears organics and yes, of course Santa exists but no, he’s not going to buy you an X-Box and sure, you can go out on Christmas Eve, but I need you bright-eyed for your nana at 9am…

So let's revisit our I Don’t Lists as the end of year approaches, and do some judicious editing.

All of our lists will be different, because for some of us, preparing a beautiful dinner for the people we love sparks enormous joy.

There are people who adore getting creative with the Elf on The Shelf (I am not one of them, but it remains on my ‘to-do’ list, because I’ve decided it’s important enough to the kids, FOR NOW). There are people who like buying gifts more than receiving them, and there are people who love the reckless hedonism of the work Christmas party.

Yes. One woman’s Grinch is another woman’s Santa.


But if queuing at the fish-markets and whipping up blueberry pavlova is your idea of hell on earth, Don’t.

Christmas I Don’t List
Who bought all these presents? I think we all know the answer. Image: Getty.

Buy a barbecue chook and tell everyone December 25 is now International Day of Bringing Your Own Salad.

If the kids want a world of expensive things that you have neither the time or money to buy, Don’t.


Tell them the truth – fancy things aren’t easy to get, and won’t make you happy when they arrive. Let’s go and do something together instead.

If your partner’s asking you to buy for their sister, Don’t.

Reacquaint your other half with the Internet and the concept of a gift card. And if it doesn’t happen, their problem, not yours.

If going out on New Year’s Eve is your idea of torture, Don’t.

Netflix and Stan are there for a reason.

And so. A few more I Don’ts before I go and hide the Elf.

I Don’t… catch up with everyone I’ve ever met for a quick dinner “before the end of the year”.

I Don’t… go to any carol concerts unless my child will be devastated not to see me there.

And even then, sometimes…

I Don’t… put myself last on the list of people who deserve to enjoy a holiday.

Because that’s the most important one of all.

Feature Image: Supplied.

This story originally appeared in Holly Wainwright’s weekly newsletter. You can get more stories like it by subscribing to her weekly newsletter, here. You can also follow Holly on Instagram, here. Facebook, here. Or buy her novels, here.